Built in 1661 by John Bowne (1627-1695), this is one of the oldest surviving buildings in New York City. Considered a fine example of vernacular Dutch-English architecture, it was named one of the 20 most important structures in the nation by the American Institute of Architects. It differs little today from the house that Bowne built.
The original sections of the house consist of the kitchen, two small adjoining rooms and sleeping quarters upstairs. In 1680 Bowne added the dining room with its pegged floors, hand-hewn beams and handsome fireplace. The dining room gives the impression that the Bowne family had prospered since construction of the earlier wing and that their lives had taken on an air of greater leisure and elegance. In 1945, after occupancy by nine generations of Bownes, the house was purchased by the Bowne House Historical Society. Today it contains a magnificent collection of 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century furniture, paintings, artifacts and documents belonging to the Bowne family. There are four special exhibitions each year, an antiques auction in the spring and a winter quilt raffle.
In this house, John Bowne took his stand against the outlawing of the Quaker sect by Peter Stuyvesant, governor of New Netherland, the Dutch colony's name at the time. Bowne's advocacy of freedom of conscience, which caused him to be banished to Holland (he was later vindicated), contributed to the adoption more than a century later of the First Amendment to the Constitution. The Bowne House is located next to the 18th-century Kingsland Homestead.
Information about the Bowne House can be found in Chinese via a link on the Bowne House website (see lefthand menu bar of homepage).
Guided tours are offered, but the house does not host any special programs for families. Group tours are available for adults; call for reservations.
A class visit to Bowne House consists of a group orientation, during which a docent describes the historic setting of the house, followed by a tour of the structure itself. An alternative is the outreach visit program: during an assembly, students watch an informal slide presentation and handle historic objects such as antique lamps, irons, candle molds, and other period tools and utensils. Students can also observe a "niddy-noddy," a device that was used to stretch and dye wool.